For example, you can designate a specific time to answer important emails and phone calls than doing them every now and then throughout the day. It helps you prioritize your work and time in a structured way. Also, when you are working on related tasks, you allow your brain to focus better and get them done quickly from your list. You can save a lot of time and effort managing recurring tasks and events in advance.
Time management tips for professionals
1. Keep lists
Create lists of thoughts you have or tasks you need to accomplish throughout the day. By recording as much as you can, it will be easy to remember which tasks you need to revisit later. Mobile devices and laptops often have built-in time-management tools to make this easy. You could also keep a small notepad on hand to add to as things come to mind. At the end of each day, you can review the tasks and create a to-do list for the following day, knowing that everything is handled.
2. Focus on one task at a time
Studies have conclusively determined that multi-tasking slows down your productivity. For maximum productivity, focus on one task at a time. It’s more effective to finish one job before moving on to the next.
3. Put a time limit on tasks
Parkinson’s law states that work will expand to fill the time that’s available for completion. By setting time constraints for certain items, you will naturally focus better and work more efficiently. If you discover that you work beyond the time limits you set for yourself, you may want to examine your workflow and look for things that could be wasting time or drawing your attention away from the task at hand.
4. Plan your week on Sunday
Going into Monday with a plan for your week will help you transition from the weekend to a productive work week. Take some time on Sunday to plan your week, breaking your weekly goals into daily tasks. If you know that you tend to be lower on energy on Mondays or during other specific moments throughout the week, schedule low-priority tasks for those moments. If you know your productivity peaks on Tuesday and Wednesday, schedule your most creative and demanding tasks for those days. If you have weekly team meetings, consider putting them on Thursday, when your team’s energy is likely to begin declining. Then use Fridays for planning and networking.
5. Create a daily plan
Spend a few minutes at the end of each day to create a daily to-do list for the following day. This will make it easier to include items that you may be tempted to put off until another day. It will also help you get right to work when you walk into the office the next day, as you’ll know what tasks you need to start with. Another trick to motivate yourself is to word items on your list as if you have already completed them. For example, instead of putting “submit report” on your list, write “report submitted.”
6. Create a “done” list
If unexpected tasks come up throughout your day, create a separate list next to your to-do list as you accomplish these additional tasks. On Sunday, review your to-do list along with the additional bonus tasks to increase your confidence and help you create a list of goals for the next week.
7. Complete your highest-priority tasks first
Complete your most important and most demanding tasks first. Not only will this ensure they get done on time, studies show that the first hour of the day is your most productive. In fact, research shows that your brain can focus more easily when it’s less alert, as there isn’t excess energy for other thoughts.
8. Block out distractions
Put your phone on do not disturb and put it in a drawer so it’s out of sight. You may also want to consider turning off instant messenger or closing your email so you aren’t distracted by new incoming emails. It’s also a good idea to close all windows other than the ones you’re working in. If possible, shut your door so you’re less likely to be disturbed. If you have a coworker or boss who periodically stops by your desk, consider making a quick stop by their offices before beginning your focused time. You may also want to consider using noise-canceling headphones or turning on music to drown out distractions.
9. Monitor how your time is spent
Knowing how you’re managing your time is an important step for great time management. Consider taking one or two days and documenting each task or activity you do. You could also use a productivity app that will monitor your activity on your phone or computer.
10. Reward yourself for difficult tasks
Because it’s natural to want to avoid difficult tasks, reward yourself for tackling those unpleasant or difficult tasks directly. For example, allow yourself to take a break and go on a walk or work on something that you genuinely enjoy as a reward.
11. Take care of yourself
12. Delegate responsibilities
If you are in a leadership role and continually find yourself behind schedule or working through lunch, you may need to consider delegating more of your responsibilities to your team. To begin delegating effectively, know who your go-to team members are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Make sure they understand the goals and expectations as well as deadlines. It’s also important to make yourself available for questions and to let them know what resources are available for them.
Time Management Strategies and Methods
There are hundreds of diverse approaches to personal productivity. We know that everyone works differently, which is why a trial and error approach to these time management strategies can help you find the best method for you.
Tip #5: Complete your most important and demanding tasks first thing in the morning.
Tip #6: Use the 80-20 Rule.
For example, say you’re an agency owner looking for clients. You spend 30 minutes a day emailing potential clients and 1 hour messaging and maintaining the businesses social media account. Only 1 client was referred to you by social media, whereas you have 5 clients were gained through email. It’s clear that you should shift your time to email outreach if you want to maximize your clients.
Anyone can use the 80-20 rule to find out where to spend their time. If you’re unsure of what activities are in your 20%, you should do a time audit or use a time tracking tool as this will give a better indication what actives are having the greatest impact and taking up the most time.
Tip #7: Take advantage of golden hours or biological prime time.
To find your golden hours or biological prime time, break your workday into 3-5 time slots. Keep track of your productivity for the week using a notebook or free time tracking tool. At the end of the week, rank these time spots from most to least productive.
Tip #8: Use the Swiss cheese method.
The Swiss cheese method, coined by Alan Lakein, argues that the best way to overcome this is to break down larger projects into either smaller tasks or time chunks. By completing a single, small task or a 15-minute time block, you’ll make the project less daunting and more likely to be finished on time.
Time Management Tips and Tricks
Tip #9: Put a time limit on tasks.
Tasks expand to fill the time they’re given, or so argues Parkinson’s law. If you give a task two hours rather than one, the amount of work you need to do to accomplish the task will simply expand to fill the full two hours.
Take another look at your time audit and identify tasks that took longer than you expected. Set a time constraint on those tasks. By setting constraints you will improve your focus and work more efficiently. You will also avoid scope creep: the expansion of a project that occurs when duties are not well-defined or controlled.
If you still find yourself going beyond these time limits, examine your workflow and determine if you should assign more time to those tasks in the future. You can also try eliminating little time-wasters like unscheduled breaks.
Tip #10: Add a “done list” to your to-do list.
Tip #11: Be one day early.
Many people believe they work best under the intense pressure of a deadline and will put off work until the day before it’s due. However, for most this isn’t actually the case. Projects often take more time than initially thought making it difficult to actually complete projects on time.
Tip #12: Don’t answer right away.
Don’t automatically answer email or Slack messages the very second they arrive. Batch process your emails and catch up on phone calls in your downtime. Close email or messaging apps to avoid interruptions when working on high-focus tasks.